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Title: John Calvin - Secret Providence - Article Fourth
Author: John Calvin
Language: English

00004-0009 Secret Providence - Article Fourth   

That all the crimes, which any man commits, are the good and just works of God.


Against the fourth, they loudly urge that passage in Isaiah, “Woe to them who call good evil, and evil good,” If sin is a good and just work of God, it follows, that justice is an evil, and unjust work of God; for justice is entirely contrary to sin. If sin is just, it follows that injustice is just; for sin is injustice. If sin is a work of God, it follows that God commits sin and if he commits sin, he is the servant of sin, according to the doctrine of Christ. If sin is a work of God, and Christ came to abolish sin, he came to abolish a work of God. But if Christ came to abolish the works of the Devil, as Peter testifies, what are the works of the Devil? If sin is a just work of God, God hates and punishes his own just work; therefore he is unjust.

But if it is objected to them that sin is not sin in God, it is demanded, in whom then is it sin? Or why does God himself hate it? Or why is sin called sin, unless it is because it is against the law, not of men, but of God?

If sin is the work of God, God commits sin, and if God commits sin, he sins: as he who doeth righteousness, is righteous. But if God sins, why does he forbid others to sin. Why does he not rather command men to sin, that they may be his own imitators? For children should follow their parent. “Be ye holy.” says he, “for I am holy.” Therefore by the same rule it will be said, “Commit ye sin, for I commit sin.”


In the fourth article you add to your forgeries; of which fact, I would have readers warned, only on this account, that they may judge of the matter by its own merits, instead of by your foetid calumnies. Not that I shrink from your objection; I merely complain, that my language is changed, for the malignant purpose of distorting my doctrine, into something odious. You contend with me just as if I had said, that sin is a just work of God; a sentiment uniformly held up to detestation, in all my writings. Therefore, just in proportion as your puerility seems subtle to yourself, is it in reality ridiculous. You infer that justice is evil, injustice good, that God is the servant of sin, and unjustly punishes what he does himself; all which are monsters fabricated in your own brain, and diligently refuted by me, as my books testify. But you shall by-and-bye feel, how detestable is the crime, to trifle in your railing way with the hidden mysteries of God. Now that you may know you have no business or controversy with me, but with that celestial Judge, whose tribunal you shall not escape; Job, by no other surely than the Spirit’s impulse, declares that to have been the work of God, which was done both by Satan and by robbers; and yet he does not tax God with sin but blesses, his holy name. It is certain that the selling of innocent Joseph by his brethren, was an atrocious crime; yet Joseph ascribing the same work to God, contemplates his immense goodness, in thereby giving food to his father’s family. When Isaiah calls the Assyrians the rod in the hand of God, he makes God the author of the horrible carnage, which through him was to be effected; but without casting the smallest stain on God. Jeremiah cursing those who did the work of God negligently, means by the work of God, whatsoever cruelty an impious adversary inflicted on the Jews. Now expostulated with him, as if he said that God sinned. In fine, all who are acquainted with the Scriptures, are aware that such testimonies might be multiplied so as to form a volume. But what need is there of words, when the thing is clear of itself. Was it not an illustrious display of the grace of God, that he did not spare his Son? Of Christ too that he gave himself up? Here you, with impure and sacrilegious mouth, affirm that God sinned, if the sacrifice of his Only Begotten Son was his work. But every pious man along with Augustine, has no difficulty in untying this knot. When the Father delivered up the Son, and the Lord his own body, and Judas his Lord, why in this surrender (48 Ep. to Vin.) is God just and man guilty? If not because in the one thing which they did, the causes were different, on account of which they did it. Therefore, Peter does not scruple openly to assert ( Acts 4:28,) that Pilate, Judas, and the rest of the wicked, did what the counsel and hand of God had decreed; as a little before he had declared ( Acts 2:28,) that Christ was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. If you quibble about the word foreknowledge, you are abundantly refuted by the “determinate counsel;” and the former passage leaves not the shadow of doubt, when it declares that Pilate and the wicked did, what the counsel and the hand of God, had decreed to be done. If you do not comprehend so great a secret, wonder with the apostle, and exclaim, oh the height! but do not madly insult. If you would be teachable, a fuller explanation were ready for you, in my other writings; it is now sufficient to beat down your insolence, lest weak minds should be shaken.